So here I go with my first blog post.  It’s odd really.  I have owned this website for several years now, but life got busy homeschooling.  We live in Washington, DC and I also own a luxury travel agency—Christopher Travel.  Between my business and homeschooling the pencil trek blog just took a back seat.  At one point I was going to use it to promote homeschooling trips (aka Pencil Treks) that were going to begin this year. Alas though, coronavirus took us from having our best month yet in January to a complete travel standstill.  We spent most of February and March becoming cancellation policy experts and chasing down refunds for clients.  Now that the dust has settled exotic travel continues to be at a standstill. Coronavirus has given me a lot of time to reflect and return to my roots. 

How The Story Begins

I definitely love my job.  There is nothing more exciting than planning an incredible adventure on the other side of the world. As any working mother knows though it’s a real balancing act.  In that sense it’s almost as if the coronavirus has been a gift.  I have more time now to focus on my daughters ES and L. ES is a rising senior and LS is going into eighth grade. (I also have two adults sons—one in seminary and the other graduated from college) LS wants to be the only one of the four to go to high school and so it seems this year will be my last year homeschooling.  I want to go out with a bang and coronavirus has given me the time to make this year amazing.  

Those that know me personally know that I am adventurer at heart and my husband, Rick, and I regularly throw ourselves into any opportunity to explore that comes our way.  This year is no exception.  In order to promote our new road trip itineraries for Christopher Travel the plan was to rent out our condo and go on the road for several months to expand our domestic travel partnerships and knowledge base before returning to Washington, DC. 

How We Accidently Sold Our House

We still plan on traveling, but when our neighbor said he wanted to buy our condo a few weeks ago we said yes without too much forethought. After talking to him Rick and I just looked at each other confused and I asked, “Did we just agree to sell our house?  I think we just agreed to sell our house.”   So here we are about eight weeks out from closing with no idea where we are going or what we are going to do.  Of course the whole thing could fall through as real estate deals sometimes do so I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but even if it does I think it’s put us more in the mindset of sell rather than rent the condo out.  To use my son RS’s favorite expression: It will be fine.  This blog is mostly about that– the story of how it will all be fine.

At first I was a bit dismayed.  I am not going to lie– I love living in the city. LS and I are city girls at heart and we are so energized by all the goings ons outside our doorstep I am in a way totally heartbroken to leave.  Rick and ES though are not fans of the city and sometimes in life you have to give in to those you love. We’ve been here two years and it’s probably time for a new adventure anyway.  I’m also a big “follow God’s lead” type person and since selling a home has never been so easy (presuming it works out) I figure this is God’s path and He has something waiting for us. 

SO We’re Moving

The question is “What exactly is that plan?” which brings me back to this website—PencilTreks.  I chose the name years ago after a trip to India with my oldest son. The trip was his graduation gift and we went to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta– kind of the crown jewel of his years travelschooling.  St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “I’m like a little pencil in his hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.”  And that’s been a goal of mine in business, homeschooling, marriage and life—to be just a pencil and let God write the story.  It’s not an easy goal for a complete control freak like myself, but I’m trying.  And really this whole pandemic thing is making it much easier.

SO as you can imagine with that as my premise I am still not sure what the Pencil Treks blog is about exactly.  Certainly it’s about homeschooling and travel. I’ll tell the story of our move and give a glimpse into our life on the road. It’s also in many ways the story behind the story of Christopher Travel as a family business.  I’d be a liar if I said I it wasn’t also about supplemental income as I will add in affiliate links and eventually I definitely will do the homeschooling tours again.  Someday I’d love for Pencil Treks to create curricula and all kinds of wonderful things, but mostly it’s just a journey that will lead wherever it leads and only time will tell.

There.  I did it. 

It took me like five years, but I think I just wrote my first blog post. 

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About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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